Economy

Mombasa, Kisumu, Malaba passenger train resumes in September

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Part of Kisumu City skyline as seen from the Kisumu Port in Lake Victoria. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NMG

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Summary

  • Travellers from Kisumu and Malaba to Mombasa will from September get seamless train services, linking the newly built standard gauge rail (SGR) line and the refurbished metre gauge track.
  • Kenya Railways Corporation managing director Philip Mainga said the seamless services will commence once the construction of a rail line linking the SGR to the older railway track at Longonot is completed.

Travellers from Kisumu and Malaba to Mombasa will from September get seamless train services, linking the newly built standard gauge rail (SGR) line and the refurbished metre gauge track.

Kenya Railways Corporation managing director Philip Mainga said the seamless services will commence once the construction of a rail line linking the SGR to the older railway track at Longonot is completed.

“Passenger operations from Mai Mahiu to Malaba via Longonot through a revamped metre gauge train for visitors to western parts of Kenya will start in September,” he told the Business Daily in an interview Tuesday.

The train from Kisumu will terminate its journey in Nakuru and its passengers transferred to the one from Malaba for the rest of the journey to Naivasha where they would board the locomotive on the SGR.

The construction of the new link between Mai Mahiu to Longonot will cost Sh5 billion while the rehabilitation of old rail tracks from Longonot to Malaba will cost Sh2.5 billion.

Kenya Railways says that some Sh2.5 billion will be used to compensate land owners.

Construction of the new 23.5-kilometre link line from Naivasha to Longonot started in August 2020 while rehabilitation of the Longonot to Malaba metre gauge railway line started in October.

China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) that constructed the Mombasa-Naivasha SGR line is building the new line and rehabilitating the metre gauge rail. The Chinese firm is working with engineers from the Kenya Railways to deliver the project.

The seamless service comes more than a decade after the company stopped operating passenger trains to western Kenya due to the dilapidated state of the rail.

“The plan is to make movement of passengers between the towns easy. We also plan to target peasant farmers along the route and this means our fare must be minimal for now,” Mr Mainga said.

It is not clear how much passengers would pay for seamless travel between Mombasa and western Kenya.

Bus transport firms such as EasyCoach and Guardian charge between Sh1,200 and Sh1,500 when demand is low but increase the fares to as high as Sh2,500 during the peak seasons like Christmas, schools re-opening and closing and Easter holidays.

Kenya Railways said that the cargo trains on the Mai-Mahiu to Longonot will start operating in June as the service targets transporting goods such as fertiliser and cereals to and from the food basket of western Kenya.

The cargo and passenger services will enhance the economic viability of the SGR line through easing movement of freight and passengers from the Port of Mombasa to Uganda and the neighbouring countries.

The Sh320 billion SGR line linking the Port of Mombasa with Nairobi was opened in May 2017. It was later linked with the Sh150 billion line to Naivasha, which started operations in September 2019.

Kenya will clear goods imported through the Port of Mombasa and headed to western Kenya and neighbouring Uganda, the Democratic Republic Congo and South Sudan through the Naivasha dry port.

The Nairobi-Naivasha SGR line was meant to be connected to the old railway track running to the Malaba border town to allow for seamless movement of cargo from the Mombasa port to Uganda.

Uganda is also working on the reconstruction of the metre gauge line from Malaba to Kampala with funding from the European Union.

The upgrades of the two lines, Malaba-Kampala and Tororo-Gulu, will cost Uganda some Sh18 billion. Kenya had already offered to give Uganda land to construct an inland depot in Naivasha.

There have been concerns that the Mombasa to Naivasha SGR line that cost an estimated Sh477 billion, would not be economically viable if it were not connected to Kampala, which is a major user of the Mombasa port for its imports.

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